Metro to resume limited service at 2 p.m.

October 30, 2012
Red Line riders await train pulling into Wheaton. (Michael S. Williamson – The Washington Post)

Metro announced that it would begin operating limited bus and rail service at 2 p.m. Tuesday. MetroAccess will remain suspended all day, but should be back on Wednesday.

Rail service will resume on all lines, but the frequency of the trains will be limited to what riders would experience on a Sunday. Normal service will resume on Wednesday morning, Metro said.

Metrobuses also get back on their routes at 2 p.m., also with service reduced to Sunday levels in most cases.

The transit authority warned riders to expect some delays and allow themselves extra travel time, especially on the buses, which could be forced to make detours because of downed trees or power lines, or because of flooding.

[11:20 a.m. update] My colleague Mark Berman just made an important point that he’s adding to The Post’s live blog. The Tuesday afternoon service may be reduced, but the fare isn’t. Fares and parking fees will be the usual weekday rates. On Metrorail, peak fares will be charged between 3 and 7 p.m. Metro spokesman Dan Stessel told Berman that Metro doesn’t have enough time to reprogram the fare structure to match this afternoon’s service level.

He said Red Line trains will run every seven to eight minutes, while trains on the other four lines will operate every eight to 15 minutes. Test runs on the tracks begin at noon. When the system reopens at 2 p.m., Stessel said, it could be up to a half hour before trains reach all the stations.

The subway and buses serving the Boston area, on the outer edge of Hurricane Sandy, were mostly back in service Tuesday morning. New York, hard hit by the storm, does not yet have a timetable for restoring subway, train and bus service.

These systems have different designs, and the impact of Hurricane Sandy was very different for all three. But I think Metro made a good call in deciding to suspend service in advance of Sandy’s arrival.

We’ve never had a storm strike us like this, so the impact on transit was unpredictable. Metro could have wound up dealing with hundreds of stranded bus riders spread across the entire region with no fallback way of getting them to where they’re going or getting them home.

If power problems stranded even one train, that could have seriously taxed emergency responders at the height of a hurricane.

During the blizzards, when Metro warned of a possible shutdown but didn’t know when it might occur, it was very difficult and stressful for people to plan their rides. People didn’t know when or where they might be left stranded by a service shutdown.

Even just trying to stand on outdoor platforms or at bus stops during a hurricane would be hazardous. Operating trains and buses encourages people to travel at a time when they shouldn’t. In many ways, Metro service during the height of Hurricane Sandy’s impact would not have been part of the solution, and very likely would have been part of the problem.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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Robert Thomson | October 30, 2012